Cultist Simulator lives up to its hype as a Lovecraftian experience, complete with the part where Cthulhu eats your sanity and poops zombies.

(Morgan Freeman voice-over:)

When we last left Penguin Pete, he had just dug into the critically-acclaimed hit genreless game Cultist Simulator. He was snarky and confident, yelling random snippets of H.P. Lovecraft lore into the night air, and assuring his readers that he would be back to write the definitive guide to Cultist Simulator as soon as he’d – this is a quote – “whupped it a few times.”

We revisit Penguin Pete Trbovich now, a less cocky, less stable man. He has not bathed in days; indeed, he eats only when his wife brings a tray into his study and stuffs food in his mouth. When his attention is forced from the game, he chatters nervously in a stream of gibberish about books, rites, summons, disciples, commissions, auctions, evidence, and secrets. This is a veteran gamer, one whom brags of completing Krusty’s Super Fun House on the SNES without saving. He claims to remember Pong on home consoles. He has born witness to the rise and fall of Radio Shack and remembers handheld electronic games from there.

No video game should be able to do this to him. And yet, perhaps this isn’t even really a video game yet. Mr. Trbovich himself is insisting that it’s a portal to another history he has to unlock.

(…end Morgan Freeman)

I mean, LOOK at this game. Here’s a guy playing for nearly seven hours continuously:

He LOST. And when you lose Cultist Simulator, there’s no score, no “nice try,” just “you wanna be reincarnated again, loser?”

The key to playing Cultist Simulator is to read every book in the world!

No really, you get books from this dump:

Cultist_Simulator_Morlands_Shop

You can only buy them one stinkin’ Funds (think “gold piece”) at a time, study them one at a time, and then collect scrappy little clues from each one. The clues may be any of a few levels of occult secret scraps from any one of nine different occult Disciplines. One at a time. Eventually when you complete Cthulhu’s Eternal Easter Egg Hunt, you have enough scraps to piece together the foundation of a strategy.

Here’s most of my collection this round:

Cultist_Simulator_Discipline_Fragments

You get two of the same kind and have to combine them into the *next* highest scrap. This goes on forever. It’s like Pokemon, only it takes all stages of all the monsters in the Pokedex before you can do anything. And you can’t control which book you get next; you just keep putting in a coin and getting a random one, like a gumball machine but you don’t know how many’s left.

It turns out you need these mystical cookies for everything. Rank up a cult member, mystical cookie. Carry out a Commission, mystical cookie. Paint a portrait, mystical cookie.

To be fair, there’s a few other ways to get books. You can bid on them at the auction in Oriflamme’s Auction House…

Cultist_Simulator_Oriflammes_Auction_House

…and then instead of paying one Funds, you have to win a bid of multiple Funds for the same books. You can also get books from raiding vaults, but you need a commando party of followers to do that and you need a special scrap from the Secret Histories Principle to find them.

Oh, what’s the use? Madame Blavatsky couldn’t explain this game in writing if she had all the ink in Russia. Let’s get Principles out of the way next:

Cultist_Simulator_Principles

The Nine Principles of Cultist Simulator

Secret Histories: Pink books. The outsider Principle, to which none of the other rules apply. They’re more like the meta-occult scraps that help you find other scraps. Nothing but the books and Lore are tied to the scraps; no Cultists or equipment is associated with them.

Knock: The cool one, the purple key. Knock is the power of opening and accessing. Knock cultists make good burglars, which does give you a few shortcuts in the game. Knock tools tend to be burglar-centric, right up to the Frangiclave, which doesn’t just open doors, but melts them away. When you think “Knock,” think “D&D rogue.”

Winter: The spooky one, the white snowflakes. Winter doesn’t seem to be good for much as far as I can tell yet, but allegedly you bring stuff back from the dead with it.

Edge: The dumb muscle, a beige dagger. Edge cultists are good for murder, Edge objects are all weapons, and the way you solve every problem with Edge is by slicing it into pieces. Sadly, not very effective at low levels.

Lantern: The mystic one, a yellow lamp. Lantern is the Principle of enlightenment, and we do mean enlightenment, to the point of blowing out your brains into yogurt if you weren’t ready to handle that much truth at once. Lantern cultists can have visions or can go crazy every time you use them. Lantern tools tend to be these manic items with a sight motif, e.g. mirrors, glasses, etc. Lantern is supposed to be too crazy to control without special skills.

Forge: The practical one, orange hammer. Forge is about making stuff. Forge cultists make stuff, and forges are hot, so they get fire powers too. Forge tools are the hardware aisle at your local Menards.

Grail: The sexy one, a red cup. Grail is the Discipline of hedonism. Grail cultists solve their problems by seducing them, regardless of gender. Grail stuff tends to be naughty no-nos.

Heart: Yes, they really did finally make a game where “Heart” is a power! It’s – wait for it – a red beating bloody heart. Heart is basically “human powers.” Heart cultists socialize around town to improve your reputation, and apparently they can persuade higher demons to put down that maul and come join us for a honky-tonk piano singalong.

Moth: The chaos one, the gray moth. Moth seems to invoke the true nature of Cthulhu. Ancient jabbering rites, sights that drive men mad, confusing squishy critters that only half-exist in multiple dimensions, that sort of thing. Moth cultists tend to do any damn thing they please, but they’re handy at getting rid of evidence because they store it in the sixth dimension or something. Talk about Moth lore to enemies and they’ll go nuts. Moth is fun.

But none of this means doodly squat until you figure out that the entire midgame is Read Those F***in’ Manuals, bub, read until your eyes bleed! You need the Lore to make acquaintances by using the Talk function. So let me augment all previous advice: Just get the bookstore and a stable income, keep enough health and wits going to avoid croaking, and – holy library card, Batman! Read all the damn books in the world!

More random Cultist Simulator tips:

Cultist_Simulator_Fun_Police

Most of this game is about working around the damn Detective!

I’ve ended so many games by being caught by the Weary Detective. He never goes away, and all he basically needs to kill you is two Notoriety cards. Do you know how many ways there are to get Notoriety cards in this game? First off, ALL OF THE CULT THINGS generate Notoriety. Every action, every time. Next, you can also get Notoriety from painting a portrait or going to a nightclub! Yeah, I don’t know what kind of Orwellian hellhole this game is supposed to be set in, but you can be imprisoned for life for having the wrong dream two nights in a row.

Oh, there’s ways to deal with Notoriety, but the only safe bet is to wait until it decays off the board. Or since hotdog Sam Spade jumps on it like a bulldog the second it shows up, wait for him to poop out the “Tentative Evidence” card, and then wait for that to decay off the board. Compared to this game environment, the Salem Witch Trials were a diversity festival at UC Berkeley.

Remember the video back up top? Skip to the end and see what got him? Yep, Keystone Kop wins again!

Cultist_Simulator_Essays

Don’t kill yourself leveling up Reason and Passion without the books.

Yes, there’s books that help specifically with that. The Collections of Poetry and Essays, respectively, have three each copies in cold storage at Morland’s. So remember last time I showed how to level up your stat cards. Well, it gets tough to level a stat past four because by the time you’ve studied Reason eight times and studied the eight Erudition cards down to four Erudition: A Lesson Learned, the first one you made is almost about to expire.

The books for Poetry and Essays give you a free “Lesson Learned” card for their stats, so you have a shortcut. I have no idea how far the stats can go or whether there’s supposed to be a likewise tome for upgrading Health too. Cute mechanism though.

Robert_Crumb_melting_face

The first time you hit the Mansus is going to freak you out.

I don’t know what to do there yet, but whatever you’re doing there applies much later in the game than I’ve ever gotten. You get this card called Way : The Wood by dreaming passionately about any of three out of nine Disciplines. You get back one of those Influence cards which vanish in a puff of smoke before you can finish reading the damn thing. Whatever.

Cultist_Simulator_archetypes

Acquaintances attracted by Talking can be any Discipline

It took me a while to figure out, but apparently what Lore you hold when you use the Talk function has no bearing on what kind of new person becomes your Acquaintance. You also can’t see that person’s Discipline alignment until after you convert them to a Believer, but it’s always the same Discipline for the same name. They’re not random, but they are drawn from a random pool.

waste_time

You need more than just the Lore cards to upgrade Lore

By the way, to upgrade Lore, you also need additional cards depending on what level of Lore you’re upgrading to. The game does not tell you this. It will cheerfully let you plop two matching Lore fragments into the Study box and hit ‘start,’ spin for a while, then think to ask, oh yeah, you got a Glimmering? It knows damn well that you have no Glimmering and the only convenient way to get one is to use the Study box. The Study box will then spin for a longer time just to make you feel even stupider and then spit back your not-upgraded Lores.

Next time you try to upgrade a different pair of Lore cards, but you have a Glimmering card this time, and that’s when it does the same thing but now it wants a Dread card. Never have it when you need it, right? There’s a complicated system of combos of random cards for each Lore Discipline and level. Pay attention, there’s going to be a test later!

UNTIL NEXT TIME!

Speaking of tests, I’m not giving up. Join us next time for the next exciting episode of Pete Gets Sucked Into Mr. Crowley’s Closet.

It’s her favorite game:

Exorcist_head

This was part 2 of my review / guide to Cultist Simulator. Part one here, part three here.

About the author

Penguin Pete

Penguin Pete

Geek tribal bard for the Internet, before "geek" was cool. Linux power user, MTG collector, light saber owner, cult movie fanatic, comic book memer, video gamer, Unix beard currently measures six inches.